Mets fans will be nobody’s World Series sidebar in 2010, and that’s all right by me.
Not The Yankees qualified Friday night. Not The Phillies sealed the deal Saturday night. The Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants deserve a dual round of applause from all of us for making us happily irrelevant over the next week or two.
More irrelevant than fans of a 79-83 team already are at this stage of the calendar.
Last October/November was Hades on Earth. Its repercussions resonated clear to this past August when, sitting among hordes of gracious defending National League Champion Phillies fans in Citizens Bank Park, I had one of the most detestable thoughts I’ve ever had in my four-plus decades of loving the game of baseball:
I’m glad the Yankees beat you last year.
With the exception of Dwight Gooden’s 1996 no-hitter and, begrudgingly, the night Bobby Murcer drove home two ninth-inning runs to honor his late friend Thurman Munson in 1979, I’ve never been glad the Yankees beat anybody, certainly not in a proactive sense, definitely not in a retroactive sense. I instantly reconsidered and withdrew that nominally pro-Yankees thought, but I didn’t replace it with I’m sorry you didn’t beat the Yankees last year.
I’m incapable of wishing any good for any Phillies fan after the last few years…and I don’t hate the Phillies with anything close to the passion that I hate the Yankees. I still maintain the Phillies are a bit of a passing phancy in terms of blood rivalry. If we’re ever in another Wild Card scrap with the Cubs, for instance, I’ll probably despise them just as much as I have our neighbors to the south. But don’t mistake that for leniency toward Philadelphia or the slightest bit of empathy regarding the removal of their National League crown Saturday night.
It’s good that the Phillies lost — it’s every bit as good as the Yankees having lost. No team, no matter how admirably they are said to play the game, doesn’t get on everybody else’s nerves by winning regularly. It happened to the likable 49ers when they had an NFL dynasty. It happened to the onetime underdog Patriots. When the Braves were winning pennants in the ’90s, they began to wear out their welcome. And the Yankees, even if you’d never heard of them before they reignited their winning ways fifteen years ago (and I’m pretty sure a lot of their latter-day loyalists hadn’t), could not help but engender disgust after a couple of World Series triumphs.
Unless you were an authentic day-in, day-out fan of a team before it landed in the midst of a great run (children who are just discovering sports excepted), you have little business associating yourself with that team. You’re a Philies fan from Pennsylvania? You’re a Yankees fan from Westchester? We may want nothing to do with you, but you are who you are. But you’re some success-lover from somewhere else who thinks this is the way to go just because there’s winning involved? Get lost right now. And you know there are tons of Yankees fans from nowhere near New York and not a few kilos of Phillies fans from nowhere near Philadelphia who have come into their franchise of choice just because they’ve been winning…until this weekend, anyway.
Technology may have eliminated plenty of geographic barriers to fandom, but I still believe you need a damn good alibi to be a fan of a high-flying team from a place you have absolutely no connection to beyond “they win a lot.” (I don’t much care about the NBA, but I already hate anybody not from South Florida who’s suddenly a huge Miami Heat fan.)
There has to be something organic about loving a team. And then, no matter where you’re from, you have to hang in there after the glitter fades. When the Phillies aren’t defending champions of anything anymore, not even our division (and they are still definitely that), let me know what a fantastic home-field advantage Citizens Bank Park is. Let me know if those towels are still waving. Let me know if their minions are still finding their way to Flushing. My guess is probably not. The hardcore Phillies fans, the ones who aren’t police blotter fodder, will solider on. But it’s likely to get lonelier down there after a fashion, and it’s likely to become football season a lot sooner, the way it was happening not very long ago.
We’re just happy there will be no more baseball games there this year, just as there will be none at Yankee Stadium III…just as there are none at Citi Field and 25 other big league venues. We all have our biases. Ours is for a team that’s currently idle and against a couple of others who are also currently idle.
The Giants and the Rangers deserve our respect and consideration on their own merit. They have the former and we’ll surely give them the latter as the World Series approaches and ensues. But for right now, it’s enough that they were Not The Phillies and Not The Yankees across two sets of six games apiece. They were magnificent in those roles.